FOOTBALL: Olszewski named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week

The former Bemidji State defensive back totaled two touchdowns in a 45-0 rout over the Chargers.

New England Patriots wide receiver Gunner Olszewski (80) runs with the ball for a touchdown past Los Angeles Chargers outside linebacker Nick Vigil (59) and free safety Nasir Adderley (24) during Sunday's game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. (Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- And don’t forget about the tackle.

Although Gunner Olszewski had a punt return for a touchdown, 145 total return yards and a receiving touchdown for the New England Patriots on Sunday, Olszewski’s instinct was to highlight his kickoff coverage efforts, as well.

“And the tackle. I had a tackle, too,” he said after the game.

The NFL rewarded Olszewski’s performance on Wednesday, as the Bemidji State product was named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for the first time in his career.


“My man, he may get not only the offensive player of the week but… special teams player of the week, as well,” Patriots quarterback Cam Newton said of Olszewski on Sunday. “Just for him, I think this game was important because just to see the maturation of him over the weeks. Last week, he got kind of slighted with the touchdown being called back, and for him to show up again (is big). … Anytime we play complementary football like that, when we get points without the offense having to do much, you're going to have turnouts just like you see today.”

Olszewski finished his special teams outing with 145 yards on three punt returns -- plus one tackle in kickoff coverage. He added a 38-yard TD reception in the fourth quarter to become BSU’s all-time leader in NFL touchdowns in one week’s time . Sunday also marked his 17th career NFL game, surpassing Brian Leonhardt for the most by a former BSU Beaver.

Olszewski also had a 61-yard punt return and became the first player in Patriots history with two punt returns of at least 60 yards in a single game. His 145 punt return yards were 11 yards shy of New England’s single-game record, and 145 is still good for second all-time and the most since 1976.

Olszewski praised his blockers for his 70-yard touchdown on a punt return in the second quarter. His head coach did the same.

“Happy for Gunner,” said Bill Belichick. “But you know, he got a lot of help on those plays, as well. He did a good job on finishing the runs and making some guys miss. But, you know, if we can just get those returns started. Justin (Bethel), (Jonathan Jones), (Matthew) Slater, Cody (Davis), those guys did a good job of getting him started and he did a good job of finishing the plays. So yeah, happy for him.”


Olszewski’s honor is just the fourth time a former Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference player has been named as a Player of the Week in the NFL. He joins Minnesota State’s Adam Thielen (2014), St. Cloud State’s Todd Bouman (2001) and Augustana’s Karl Mecklenburg (1985, 1986, 1987).

The Patriots beat the Los Angeles Chargers 45-0 on Sunday to improve to 6-6 on the season.

Although Olszewski’s offensive role has fluctuated at times this year, he’s making his mark on special teams. No doubt, the former Beaver is having fun, too.

“I get to wake up every day and play football, so that’s probably the biggest thing for me,” he said. “I get plenty of reps in practice throughout the week, playing football. When we win games on Sunday, I don’t care if I went in one time, if I had one punt return for five yards. If we win -- and we’ve been on quite the roll here lately -- that’s definitely helped.”

Micah Friez is the former sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he worked at the Pioneer from 2015-23 and is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing.
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